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Maui Christmas December 25, 2009

Filed under: Adventures — pimom @ 21:07
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Maui Kamole Beach Park Sunset

Christmas Tree in Maui

Christmas Tree in Maui

MAUI CHISTMAS

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Spicy Gingerbread Men Cookie Recipe December 24, 2009

I make a ton of cookies every year and have been doing so for years.  I give them out as gifts or make them for special occasions.  Consequently, I really don’t really eat them any more.  Especially at Christmas, I make so many that I would rather eat anything but cookies.  The one exception is gingerbread cookies.  I only make them at Christmas because I hate to make anything that requires rolling or decorating.  The rest of the year I just make do with substandard store bought cookies (I do like the Anna’s Ginger Thins, though).  I used to decorate them with icing and candy, but I’m too lazy for that.  I figure actually rolling dough is enough extra holiday effort.

These cookies are a bit spicier than the usual recipes so they may not be suitable for youngsters.  Depending on how thin they are rolled and how long they are baked, they can be either soft or crispy.  For soft, roll them thicker and bake them less, for crispy, the opposite.

SPICY GINGERBREAD MEN COOKIES

makes about 48 cookies (3 1/2″ x 4″)

6 cups flour

Spicy Gingerbread Man Cookie

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

5 teaspoons ground ginger

5 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons ground white pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks of butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup unsulfured molasses

Cream butter and dark brown sugar with an electric mixer (this usually takes 2-3 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time, until blended.  Add the molasses until blended.

Sift together all of the dry ingredients (the first 8).  One cup at a time, add it to the butter mixture.

Chill the dough for about an hour.

On a floured surface roll out the dough and cut into desired shapes.

Place shapes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 8 – 10 min.  Cool on a wire rack.

Gingerbread Men in Progress

Lifting Up Gingerbread Man Cookie

The dough sticks to the work surface less the colder it is.  However, this makes it harder to roll out.  I like to roll out a warmer dough.  It really does stick to the counter though.  I don’t like to over flour to work surface since this can change the texture/flavor of the cookie.  What I came up with was using a silicone scraper to get the cookie off of the counter in one piece.   The scraper was advertised to be used to scrape burnt bits off of a frying pan (works great for that by the way).  I can’t remember where I bought it but it was about a buck.  If you find one, buy it!

 

The Signature Lounge at the 96th Floor of the John Hancock Center December 20, 2009

Filed under: Adventures,Other Food — pimom @ 13:52
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Appetizer at the Signature Lounge 96th floor Hancock Center

Jumbo Shrimp and Crab Claws

View from the Signature Lounge at the 96th Floor of the John Hancock Center

The view of the downtown Chicago skyline from the John Hancock Center is breathtaking.  If you go to the observatory, I believe it costs about $20.  You do get the full view from around the whole building, but for about the same, it’s more fun to have cocktails and treats at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock Center.  KM and I went just before sunset at it was the perfect timing.

If you liked the bathroom at the Palm Court at the Drake, the ones here are not to be missed.  The picture is kinda crappy (no pun intended) but you can see that it probably has the best view of any bathroom.

View from ladies' room of 96th floor Signature Lounge at the Hancock Center

 

Christmas Cookie Gifts December 19, 2009

Filed under: Cookies — pimom @ 14:56
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Christmas Cookie Gifts

Christmas Cookie Gifts

One of my favorite gifts to give and of course to receive is food.  For the holidays I give out hundreds of cookies.  This year DR gave me a very elegant box with four kinds of biscotti; lemon pistachio, chocolate chocolate chip, almond coffee, and my favorite, cinnamon pecan.  I would like to say that I savored them slowly but…I gobbled the first four upon receipt and ate the other four soon thereafter.  Yummmy!

Christmas Biscotti Gift

Christmas Biscotti Gift

When I give out cookies, I try to use containers that I have recycled. I wrap coffee and oatmeal containers in wrapping paper.  I have affixed old cutout Christmas cards onto takeout containers.  I also buy some holiday bags and put a small assortment of cookies in them.  I’m never sure if they’re food safe or not so I usually put them in a ziplock first.  It also helps to keep them fresh.

Christmas Cookie Gifts

 

Christmas Afternoon Tea at the Drake Hotel December 18, 2009

Afternoon Tea at the Drake

Every year KM and I do afternoon tea at Christmastime.  We have been to all of the Chicago formal tea hotspots and the Drake is the best .  We hadn’t been there in a few years and decided to revisit.

One of the best parts of tea at the Drake is the atmosphere. It is very traditional and fancy.  It looks like they have redecorated since we were there last.

A harp player in a stunning silver dress played Christmas tunes.  There were also carolers that roamed from table to table to sing to you.  They looked like they had stepped out of a Dickens’ novel, one of the nicer parts.

The tea was delicious.  I had the Orange Dulce which was very sweet and caramely (or that may have just been the lump of sugar and cream I added to each cup).  KM had a very crisp White Jasmine.

The tea came with a three-tiered serving of treats.  The top plate had scones and banana bread.  The scones came with a yummy lemon curd and strawberry jam (sadly, no cream-maybe for the best…)  There were roast beef , cucumber and tomato, egg salad, and asparagus and ham sandwiches on the second tier.  Last but not least, two strawberry tarts, a mini-cinnamon cream puff, and a pastry of undetermined origin.  As far as all of the afternoon teas we have sampled, this one is the most substantial.

The service is the best.  They are attentive but not obtrusive;  perfect for gossipy chats over tea.

Scones and Banana Bread

Afternoon Tea at the Drake - scones and banana bread

Afternoon Tea at the Drake -strawberry tart, cinnamon cream puff, mystery pastry

Afternoon Tea at the Drake - Sandwiches

The Drake Palm Court Ladies' Room

The Drake - Christmas Tree

The bathrooms at the Palm Court at the Drake are considered some of the nicest (in the city, in the country, in the world, I don’t know).  I’m not sure what the people who decide these things are looking for, but in case you haven’t seen them and were interested…now you have.

I find the Christmas tree more appealing, but that’s just me.

Happy Holidays.

 

Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden December 17, 2009

This year we finally went to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Wonderland Express. GW liked the trains while I liked the replicas of famous Chicago landmarks.

Wonderland Express - Downtown Chicago

Wonderland Express - The Bean (Cloud Gate)

Wonderland Express - The Bean (Cloud Gate)

Wonderland Express - President Obama's Kenworth Home

 

Kolacz Weselny – Polish Wedding Cake December 12, 2009

Filed under: Desserts — pimom @ 02:47
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Kolacz Weselny – Polish Wedding Cake

For most , Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with family and friends.  For me, it is the time for forcing experimental desserts upon them.  JE always brings several lovely pies, so, even if I totally screw up my dessert, there will still be delicious sweets to consume as well as something to laugh at (my failed dessert!).  Past failures include a Frango Mint Cheesecake that I threw upside down on the table in an attempt to get it out of the pan. Last year I made cream puffs shaped like turkeys.  The hard part, making turkey shaped puffs, turned out to be easy.  The plan was to fill them with chocolate whipped cream.  I decided to add some alcohol. I think it may have been Bailey’s or Kahlua; because, what is more fun than chocolate whipped cream except chocolate whipped cream with alcohol?  So, the cream didn’t set and the poor turkeys were drowning in brown soup (alcoholic brown soup).

This year I made Polish Wedding Cake.  It is a sweet soft bread filled with sweet cheese. This was my first attempt at a decorated bread.  I braided three ropes together and wound two rows around the edge of the cake.  Then, I made the “turkey” in parts and placed it on the cake by brushing on milk as a glue.  I noticed that the accents that seemed distinct before baking seemed to meld together as it cooked.  As far as the taste, it was good.  I would make it again as a breakfast/brunch bread, but not as a celebration cake.  I thought it might have been improved by adding a layer of fruit, maybe a strawberry preserve or cherry pie filling.  One note on construction, I found that the two layers surrounding the cheese needed to be pinched together so the cheese would not escape (sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale).

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